The Art of Composing
~A Well Written Letter~
I love to write to you—it gives my heart a holiday and sets the bells to ringing.
—Emily Dickinson to Minnie Holland
In earlier years, ladies held very particular ideas about the propriety of their letter writing and correspondence,and often observed the standards prescribed by favored etiquette manuals and lady’s periodicals of their day. Still considered the height of good manners, the following suggestions are as timely today as they were a century ago.
Letter writing… is a very different affair. Its beauty consists in its simplicity, ease, and freedom from formality. The best rule that can be given for letter writing is, to imagine the person present who you are addressing, and write just what you would say in conversation. All attempts at effort, in letter writing, are out of place. The detail of particulars, such as your correspondent would be interested to know, and the expression of your own feelings, are the great excellences of this kind of writing.
—How To Be A Lady, 1850
When composing a handwritten letter, ladies often slipped away to a quiet location, either seated at their writing desk or an amiable cushioned chair pulled close to a cozy fire, allowing them peace and solitude with which to gather their thoughts and to translate them onto the pages of their writing papers. A balanced and comfortable writing utensil was always chosen, allowing them to inscribe in their loveliest penmanship, and a cup of hot tea was kept close at hand to refresh them between “pretty thoughts and friendly salutations.”
Thank you for my dear letter, for the love it bore me, and for its golden thoughts, and feelings so like gems.
—Emily Dickinson to Susan Gilbert Dickinson, February 1852
--The Riches and Treasures of Home